IBank to double number of branches nationwide

IBank to double number of branches nationwide

State-owned Islamic Bank of Thailand (IBank) has been instructed to more than double the number of branches to 100 nationwide with a focus on the South, home to the country's largest concentration of Muslims.

The branches should be located in every district in southern Thailand to comply with the bank's mission and policy, said Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat.

If the state-run bank can comply with the policy, it will solicit foreign investors, particularly from the Middle East, who want to help Muslims invest, and this would strengthen IBank and enable it to stand by itself without relying on government support, Mr Santi said.

IBank has 40 branches nationwide, mostly in the South.

Mr Santi has delegated IBank's executives to arrange plans associated with branch expansion and Muslim career development to reinforce the country's economic foundation.

Given that IBank is a specialised financial institution, profit maximisation and competition with commercial banks are not a priority, Mr Santi said.

The government stands ready to support IBank, he said, and its profit could be lowered in return for helping people.

Based on the bank's loan and deposit structure, the Muslim customer ratio is relatively small.

IBank's loans outstanding at the end of March amounted to 54 billion baht, of which 27.1 billion baht was from large customers, 7.83 billion baht from small and medium-sized enterprises and the rest from retail clients.

According to a breakdown by religion, Muslim customers numbered 12,215, accounting for 32% of 37,844 borrowers, with non-Muslims totalling 25,629 or 68%.

For the bank's total deposits, 46% were large customers, 21% were mid-sized ones and the rest were retail.

The number of Muslim depositors was 513,089, representing almost 60% of the bank's total depositors of about 890,000.

IBank must reposition itself to provide Muslims better access to the bank's services, Mr Santi said, adding that the bank should play a role in giving Muslims life security and providing financial services to create jobs, particularly those involved with halal food.

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